JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It was a story that tugged on the heartstrings of all of Jacksonville Tuesday morning.
After hours of searching, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office safely located a 2-year-old boy that went missing in the area of St. Johns Bluff Road South.
Police say the boy was found safe thanks to an observant citizen who noticed the child while on his way to work. Now, the child's father is speaking to First Coast News about the experience. He says he'll be forever thankful for the people involved in his safe return.
"My utmost respect and heartfelt thanks to the officers and everyone involved in finding my son," he says. "I would also like to give out the deepest and biggest thanks to the citizen that called the police when seeing my son. I am extremely grateful to everyone for the well wishes for my son and prayers for his safe return."
Officers initially responded to an apartment complex in the 3700 block of Saint Johns Bluff Road South around 3 a.m. JSO says their initial investigation revealed that the mother of the child was at home sleeping shortly before the disappearance.
Police say the father got home from work late and it was at that time that both parents discovered that the child was missing. Investigators believe the child escaped out the front door.
"Going forward, though we had locks on the door, we are going further to ensure something like this never happens again," the father tells First Coast News. "I can only hope that this also helps any parents, new or old, to do the exact same, as this experience is something no one should go through."
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Around 6:15 a.m., police say someone called to report they had located the child about half a mile away. The 2-year-old was reportedly chasing ducks when he was found.
"I would also like to add that the apartment complex that we are living at when above and beyond any expectations or what they needed to do.... they not only assisted in trying to help find our son but have been more than willing to help us in regards to doing modifications to the front door in regards to adding more locks like a deadbolt and whatnot," the father says.
No foul play is expected at this time and no arrests have been made, however, the Department of Children and Families is conducting a separate investigation.
Law enforcement wants to remind people about the importance of child-proofing your home with additional locks and other devices.
There are many different products available to baby proof the doors in your home. Click here for additional information.